Momma Says Spock You OUT.
I witnessed Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ tonight at a sneak preview presented by my church. I went into the movie expecting to be moved, but never to the extent that I actually was.
Let’s just clear the air on one point, before I go any further: I do not know how anyone could view this movie as anti-Semitic. The conniving of the high priests and Pharisees was (in my opinion) equalled by the vulgarity, the animal cruelty of the Romans. The culpability lay with both parties; Pilate and Caiaphas were equally to blame. I was interviewed on my way out of the theater by a reporterette from KYW – 1060 AM in Philly. I’m not exactly sure what I said, other than telling her that I was moved. She then asked if I thought it was anti-Semitic. When I answered with a flat-out “No”, she just held the mic in my face for a few seconds and gave me a “Really?” I don’t know if she actually saw the movie or if she simply was asking questions, but I don’t think she could have honestly viewed the movie and had the reaction she did.
Moving on, I came into the movie expecting to be able to make it through the scourging but to have trouble when the Romans actually nailed Jesus to the cross. I cannot describe how wrong I was. I was literally in tears through a good portion of the scourging. When we finally reached the nails, I almost sighed with relief; I had a “It’s almost over. His suffering is almost done.” reaction.
The emotion was intense throughout the movie; I repeatedly heard sobs escape from many of the ~425 other viewers in the theater. Mercifully, many of the most vivid scenes were broken up by flashbacks to times earlier in Jesus’ life.
Jim Caviezel (Jesus), Maia Morgenstern (Mary), Monica Bellucci (Mary Magdalene) and Hristo Jivkov (the apostle John) all put in amazing performances. I was particularly moved by Jivkov’s performance, as he had very, very few lines, but he was able to convey extreme emotion through his posture, demeanor and facial expressions.
Caviezel’s Jesus cut me deeply. I’m not sure why (perhaps it’s my Protestant upbrining), but I’ve always had a bit of a “wussy Christ” image in my head. The Gospels portray him as dying after a “mere” three hours on the cross. I’ve always jumped from “they convicted Him” to “they crucified Him” with nary a second thought given to the intervening hours. This movie has dramatically changed that for me. Even if Christ “only” experienced half of what Gibson portrayed on screen, it is no wonder that He died so “quickly”.
I am not expecting it, but this movie definitely deserves an Oscar nod for 2004. I cannot foresee any movie having anywhere close to the emotional impact, this year or in any year to come.
I would recommend that anyone with any interest in powerful moviemaking go see The Passion as soon as they can. I don’t think anyone, be they Christian, Jew, Hindu, atheist or otherwise, can come out of the theater and not be moved.
I doubt that I’ll be picking up the DVD, though. There’s only so much I can take. Good thing it wasn’t me up on the cross…
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